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Letters (June 30, 2021)

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About five months ago Mason Harris came to me and asked me to help him change an ignition on a four-wheel drive he inherited from an uncle who passed away. Mason said he wasn’t mechanically inclined. Turning a wrench is a hobby of mine. So I said yes, I would help him. 


He even did all the work. I was just helping with advice and looking for a hidden key maybe his uncle left behind. Out came a bunch of guys saying, What are you doing stealing our truck? Mason even gave me a tool out of the truck so these guys could claim I stole it from that truck.

Needless to say, I just signed a plea deal for three years because they threatened to give me eight years and eight months at 80% because of prior strike convictions. I just would like to say that no good deed goes unpunished. The justice system here is shitty. And of course Mason Harris and the guys from that shop are pieces of shit. 

Patrick Shane Schuetz

Mendocino County Jail, Ukiah

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ED NOTE: Here’s the original press release on the incident in question (with the AVA’s original title):


On Monday, January 11, 2021 at approximately 5:21 PM, a Deputy from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was dispatched to a reported vehicle burglary in progress at an address in the 3500 block of North State Street in Ukiah.

Upon arrival, the Deputy contacted the reporting party who advised he owns a truck repair business at the location. The business owner reported seeing two subjects inside of a pickup that had been dropped off for repairs. The business owner contacted the vehicle owner to confirm he had not sent anyone to get items out of his vehicle, and he stated no one should be inside of his vehicle.

The business owner provided descriptions of the two male subjects. The Deputy, with the assistance of officers from the Ukiah Police Department, located two male subjects matching the description in the area.

An in-field lineup was conducted, which positively identified the two males as the same subjects who were seen inside of the pickup.

Further investigation was conducted, which revealed the locked vehicle had been broken into, and it appeared the subjects were attempting to “hot wire” the pickup. The dashboard had been damaged and loose wires had been cut in the area of the pickup's ignition. There were various tools and other items left in the pickup which did not belong to the owner.

The first subject was identified as Mason Harris. Harris was found to be on pretrial court ordered release for second degree burglary with search terms.

Harris, Schuetz

The second subject was identified as Patrick Schuetz. Schuetz was found to be on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS-County Parole) with search terms. A search of Schuetz's belongings revealed several tools commonly used in the commission of burglaries.

Harris was ultimately placed under arrest for Attempted Vehicle Theft, Second Degree Burglary, and Conspiracy.

Schuetz was ultimately placed under arrest for Violation of County Parole, Second Degree Burglary, Conspiracy, and Possession of Burglary Tools.

Both subjects were transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail.

In accordance with the COVID-19 emergency order issued by the State of California Judicial Council, bail was set at zero dollars for both subjects and they were released after the jail booking process.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office would like to thank the officers from the Ukiah Police Department for their assistance with this case.

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To: Mendocino County Board of Supervisors

Re: Item 5e, Speciality Mental Health Services Contract

Some of us worked very hard to persuade RQMC and RCS to take on adult mental health services so we would not have to endure another private, for-profit corporation skimming too much money off the top. Mendocino County is fortunate they agreed to provide adult services. They do a much better job than anyone else has done.

They and their subcontractors work harder than anyone has before to provide compassionate and supportive services within the resources they receive. If they had more resources, I believe they would use them wisely to provide more of the needed adult services.

Yes, more people need help.

Yes, there are gaps.

Yes, mistakes can happen; but with RQMC, solutions and change follow.

Daily, there are many RQMC and RCS success stories that we don’t hear about. It is important to acknowledge these silent success stories as people receive the support they need to climb rung after rung toward health and better lives.

RQMC and RCS deserve our support. And they deserve even more money so they can maintain and expand support services that are desperately needed by many people.

Sonya Nesch


Author, Advocating for Someone with a Mental Illness

NAMI Support Group Facilitator, Family-to-Family Teacher

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My men’s softball team was interrogated on during our June 14 game by a masked Santa Rosa city official who wanted to know why each of us was not wearing a mask. Outdoors. During a ballgame. That we were playing in. In a 70% vaccinated county. Literally five hours before all mask mandates were dropped statewide.

I’m all for civil servants doing what they are told to do, but with the state of the roads I drive on every day, I’d question our city’s priorities when we waste valuable man-hours enforcing a mask standard that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention repealed over a month ago.

I’d be happy to take a drive down Mulberry Drive, Calistoga Road or Sunridge Drive with Mayor Chris Rogers or any of our City Council members if they’d like to experience what really matters to their constituents.

Gary Lentz

Santa Rosa

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Response to Bill Thompson of Petaluma’s letter: “No need for an AK.”

From the wealth ghetto of Petaluma, Bill Thompson. confuses "AK" with "AR" rifles and then fails to differentiate them further as to their capabilities and situational usage. Neither the AK platform or the AR system uses "clips" while being fired. Thompson should get his money back from the "GUN SAFETY" seminar he says he took.

Bill Thompson (who is not a reincarnation of Hunter late of Glen Ellen) asserts that the best gun (for home defense?) is a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with "buckshot" so there are "no worries about rounds going through walls". 

Au contraire Billy, 12 gauge shotgun shells offer buckshot loads in two common sizes OO and the slightly smaller OOO size shot. Both of these will easily penetrate a wood framed, sheet rocked wall with multiple balls of shot. Double OO shot is the same diameter as a .357 Magnum bullet or a 9 millimeter bullet and is lethal at quit a distance in the open and equally deadly when having passed through two layers of compressed gypsum wallboard.

Thompson ought to read the AVA coverage about the armed repeat burglar who is home invading near the coast. Persons residing in that area are the best ones to decide what kind of firearm if any they might employ should they encounter this later day Aaron Bassler. 

Pvt. E-1 Irv Sutley

Glen Ellen, CA

P.S. For the Record, Mr. T, I was the one who identified the model of SKS carbine Bassler was carrying for AVA staffers before he got skunked.

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Let’s say you hired a contractor to build a very nice home. The day you were to move in, as the house appeared complete and looked great, you found that the contractor had ripped up the floors, removed the sheetrock and gutted the attic. After it was done.

Now, take a ride from Healdsburg to Cloverdale. You will be traveling over one stretch of Highway 101 that is only two years old, and the next 8 miles is less than one year old. About 16 miles total. You may notice at least 12 places where the new road has been ripped up, storm drains installed under the new pavement, and repaved with a rough transition of concrete. Did Caltrans not know that this storm drainage was needed before spending many millions to repave the 16 miles?

Come on, we deserve better.

Wayne Diggs


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To the Editor:

New English word: Every once in a while somebody hits it right out of the park….Not yet found in the Oxford Dictionary, but discovered to be a “coined” new word on T-shirts sold on eBay: Read slowly, absorb the facts that are in this definition! I love this word and believe it will become widely recognized. Finally, a brand new English word that describes not only the present but our future.

Ineptocracy (in-ep-toc’-ra-cy) — a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the lest capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers!

David Anderson


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To the Editor:

Ukiah’s Western Hills are a Fire Death Trap!

I have recently read the UDJ article of 6/4/21 “Western Hills Plan Vote Delayed.” I agree with the comments of most of the residents, Fire Safe Council Representative and disagree with fire fighter Mike Maynard.

I have a photo published by UDJ 10/19/14 which is a northwest view of the western hills from The Observatory, Circa 1900. There is very light fuels in the hills shown in the photo, reason unknown, fire, wood cutting and/or livestock grazing possibly all of the above. I have been told the western hills burned in the late 50’s or early 60’s and it was quite scary and quite a spectacle.

In any event our current “fuel loading” i.e. oaks, grass, brush, some Douglas fir is substantial and has built up/grown since the above mentioned fire for at least 60 years. If you want to get a good look at the western hills, load up Google Earth.

Now remember Ranch Fire, River Fire, and Cow Mountain Fires that have run into Lakeport. Now it was mentioned how these shaded fuel breaks will help in fire suppression effort. Yes but burning embers travel in fractions of miles or miles, a fuel break is only a couple of hundred feet wide if that. The only good the fuel break will do is be a point to back fire from.

I have told friends who live up on the westside with narrow steep “roads “ to their homes, if a fire starts, get outta there. The fire trucks can’t get up these roads and the only thing that will save you and/or your home is an aircraft retardant drop.

The UDJ article discusses modern pre-fire planning, with roads as fire breaks and water systems. All it takes is Red Flag Day with heat, low humidity, high winds and sparks from a rock or lightning strike and you can kiss your home and maybe your life goodbye. Look at the Cal Fire Statistics, 25 percent of fires are caused by equipment strikes (weed eaters, lawn mowers etc.) and debris burning.

Now we come to building a home under these circumstances. People think about the gorgeous view lots overlooking the valley they will have and the (re)sale value. Then wait until the insurance guy cometh.

Another friend was quoted $16,000/year out off Orr Springs Road. Someday we have to face the fact that some of these lands are NOT developable for the risk taken. The wildland interface has become a retirement zone that is now a death trap burn zone.

Think of all the wildland interfaces that have burned recently. The western hills should have been zoned “green belt, open space watershed or park lands.” Now is the time to start buying these lands back.

Use the funds for the proposed surfaced roads and water systems. Find a fire safe grant to buy the lands back into city or county ownership. Find a solution so the western Hill do not become another Paradise.

Pardee Bardwell


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Last night I awakened around midnight for a few moments. Without turning on a lamp (common occurrence) I opened my eyes to look at the illuminated clock face on the nightstand. It was dark. Power outages during rain and thunderstorms are common here, and it was drizzling outside, so I rolled over and went back to sleep.

A couple of hours later, I awakened again, needing to go to the bathroom, again, habitually, not turning on a light. The clock was still dark, so I used a flashlight to read the time on the battery-powered living room clock. It read 2:30. Out of curiosity, I took the flashlight to read the clock on the stove top to get a notion of how long the power had been off. Oddly, it read the same as the battery clock in the living room. Then, I looked at the microwave above the stove top. Its illuminated numerals were shining brightly and read 2:31. That seemed weird, since, during power outages, its clock face goes blank until reset. I started feeling a little like I was in the Twilight Zone.

I walked back to my bedroom and glanced in the direction of the bedside clock as I entered. It was shining brightly, and read 2:30!

Then it came to me. During my first awakening, I had not gotten out of bed and had just looked over at where the clock was. I had completely forgotten having sat a large lens pouch on the bed stand as I was unloading gear from my earlier late-afternoon ride with Diamond. The lens pouch completely blocked my view of the clock with my head on the pillow but the clock was completely visible from a standing position. There had been no power outage whatsoever.

To say the least, I was relieved. I felt a little foolish as well, but that happens at times.

Harvey Reading

Somewhere in Wyoming

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In early June the Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved a “Phase 3” Cannabis Ordinance on a 4-1 vote, formally ratified on June 22. John Haschak was the sole NO vote. This culminated several all-day hearings, back and forth to the Planning Commission, and an unprecedented over 500 public comments. The BOS rushed to finalize this ordinance before July 1 to utilize a temporary State exemption to the requirement for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Among the 500 commenters, the vast majority opposed key provisions in the new ordinance. A major objection is allowing up to 10% of property acreage (for parcels over 10 acres) to be developed for cannabis growing. This includes rural residential, ag, and rangeland zoning districts — tens of thousands of acres of the County — though there are some added restrictions on the rangeland areas. Most permits would require a minor or major use permit.

Two groups have launched referendums to overturn either the whole Phase 3 ordinance or just the 10% provision. Either referendum would require approximately 4,000 signatures within 30 days after the June 22 adoption date. If qualified, such referenda would then go to the BOS which can either adopt one or both of them OR can schedule a special election to be brought to the voters. It’s possible both referenda could be approved (over 50% voting yes); so far the County has given no guidance on what would happen in that case.

The two groups call themselves “Small is Beautiful” to repeal just the 10% provision; and “The People’s Referendum to Save our Water, Wildlife & Way of Life” to repeal the whole ordinance. In brief, the former group is concerned that throwing out Phase 3 would make getting legal permits going forward very difficult. Some also prefer a 1-acre cap (allowed with site-specific EIR under the new Phase 3) rather than the current limit of one-quarter acre on grows (expandable to 1 acre only after a county-wide EIR).

The “total repeal” group feels that an EIR is essential to understanding the impacts before any major expansion of cannabis grows, in acreage and through new permits in rural zoning districts where it is currently prohibited. Without analysis or EIR, they argue, the County has no idea how many acres of grows they’re talking about, nor how much water those grows would be pumping from our aquifers (not to mention impacts on roads, wildlife corridors, etc.). Based on John Haschak’s extensive work with involved agencies, they believe that existing small-scale operations CAN be successfully permitted — that the County has (intentionally or incompetently) held these “heritage” growers hostage for years with its failures to process permits or to enforce.

Already, we are seeing “small” grows, legal and illegal, proliferating at an alarming rate, people’s wells running dry, hoop houses, lights, roads over-used, land prices sky-rocketing, etc. Phase 3 seems likely to exacerbate these problems!

Bottom line: BOTH referenda would be an improvement over the BOS action, so feel free to sign both if you wish. If they both end up on a ballot, you can also choose to vote YES on both. But I personally strongly prefer repealing the ordinance so we can have a proper EIR. This would stop all expansion until & unless we know the consequences and enforce the rules! I believe rejecting the BOS Phase 3 ordinance is the appropriate remedy. Then all of us can fight together for solutions going forward, including legalizing our responsible heritage growers.

To volunteer for the “People’s” (total repeal) petition, contact; for the “Small” (No on 10%) petition, contact .

Madge Strong, Willits City Council Member


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To the Editor:

I listened to District 1 Supervisor Glenn McGourty at a neighborhood meeting here in the uplands of Redwood Valley, and I heard Karen Ottoboni interview District 3 Supervisor John Haschak on KZYX’s TKO (available online 6/23/21, 9:03 a.m.).

Mr. McGourty had been invited to talk about our Supervisors’ plan for industrializing cannabis cultivation and why he was supporting it. Ms. Ottoboni gave Mr. Haschak a more wide-ranging portfolio.

The BoS’s voted 4-1 against Haschak to approve “Phase 3” (their cannabis ordinance opposed by about 70% of their constituents). The one Haschak had articulated a first principle for any new agricultural expansion: “We should first find out what our watersheds can support.”

There it is. Common sense. About a mile or so from where I write and can see Lake Mendocino diminish by the day, a (grape) grower decided he needed more water. He found it, at 850 feet down. “We should find out,” Haschak says, “what our watersheds can support before we approve new & industrialized grows” …“Of any crop,” Ottoboni rightly inserts several times during her interview with Haschak..

As Ottoboni candidly says, it’s her opinion that the current debate about agricultural development is weighted against cannabis. She (and I) think the same standards for water usage and watershed damage should apply both to grapes and to legal pot cultivation.

McGourty is of course not on Ottoboni’s show, but his comments the week before refract the water issue through a wine guy’s glass. “I have priority water rights,” he slips in, as an aside to a discussion of water allocation. Having said that, he’s in favor of new, large-scale cannabis cultivation and its enabling Phase 3 ordinance: 2 acres of cannabis/20 acres of rangeland and other once-protected parcels; 10% rule for larger parcels. He believes we have enough water.

The L.A. Times recently reported credible evidence that our drought is a return to normal. It’s neither an anomaly nor a new normal. Rather, the last 100 years have been abnormally wet. Our entire western water system of dams, reservoirs, canals, and the Pulgas Water Temple is watered by that abnormal interruption of many centuries of aridity.

“We should find out what our watersheds can support,” Haschak tells Ottoboni. He’s been out-voted, 4-1.

Our 4 concurring Supes have found their herd immunity to the clear wishes of their constituents, and our Supes’ performance on 22 June shows their slippery contempt for us voters. They will “phase in” their “experiment,” I believe over 4 or perhaps it’s 5 years. Then, as Board Prexy Gjerde said, there’ll be a commission or something to “report” on where “we” are.

We know where “we” will be: The camel will have followed his nose under and into our tent, as we’ll be able to tell by the smell of dead or unspawned fish in our rivers and the stench of big, shady money sent to New Jersey & Texas & Florida LLCs.

What to do?

First, if there’s a referendum repealing “Phase 3,” vote for it!–If there are 2 referenda against Phase 3, vote for both and may the better one win! Four or 5 years from now will be too late to Stop the Steal of our county!

And, who knows? The referendum virus may mutate into recall.

Jonathan Middlebrook (and Nick)

Redwood Valley

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To the Editor:

My response to Jim Shields.

Your swipe of me in your most recent opinion column was uncalled for. In the Observer you have printed a quote from Mark Twain – Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.

It is good advice that I have taken through many, many years of public life. I didn’t respond to your opinion a number of months back because it would have been a “fight” and as a publisher/editor of a newspaper “you do buy ink by the barrel.”

Furthermore, other comments you made in your column about the Laytonville County Water District selling water to water haulers struck me as an advertisement for the District you run, especially during this drought. The UDJ should charge you for the ad space. Pay up, Mr. Shields.

Carre Brown


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ED NOTE: Here’s the offending reference from Shields’ column:

“Remember a couple of years ago, when most likely in response to several columns I had written about ‘you can’t grow weed without water,’ Supe Carre Brown said, ‘We have enough checks and balances on water.’ I then wrote a follow-up column asking, ‘Just what exactly are these checks and balances?’ The question, of course, went unanswered.”

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Mark Scaramella adds: Obviously, former Supervisor Brown doesn’t appreciate anyone pointing out that her statement that “We have enough checks and balances on water,” is not the case. “We,” the Farm Bureau, not the County, probably does think that are enough checks and balances. But since there are no gages on inland wells and, until recently, Potter Valley grape growers and ranchers can have as much essentially free water as they want from the Potter Valley Diversion, there’s no real checks and balances to provide — hence Ms. Brown’s inability to provide an answer to Shields’ question.

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According to Sonoma Water’s monitoring data, the lower Russian River is loaded with excessive levels of phosphorus that, when combined with the hot sun and low flows, cause extensive algal growth that gets worse as flows decrease. Sometimes toxic algae is hidden under or on nontoxic varieties. Most people don’t know it when they see it, including experts who usually rely on its being tested in a lab. While it’s a natural outcome of environmental circumstances, it’s also a health concern for humans and pets.

Sonoma Water’s temporary urgency change petition, recently authorized by the state water board, acknowledges the extreme drought with which we are faced. That order says minimum flows at Hacienda Bridge can go as low as 25 cubic feet per second, rather than the 60 cfs we had requested. The lower amount could cut off tributaries from the main stem and cause bald spots in the main, etc.

Lower river residents helped pay for Warm Springs Dam, but Sonoma Water refuses to release adequate stored water to keep downstream pets and humans safe this summer. Sonoma Water customers will have first dibs on the supply. Half of the water Sonoma Water sells goes to out-of-basin customers, including some people fighting to cut off the Eel River supply.

Brenda Adelman

Russian River Watershed Protection Committee

Sonoma County

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Storing more water during rainy years could greatly reduce the need for rationing. Raising Coyote Dam by 36 feet would add 77,000 acre-feet of storage to Lake Mendocino. Strengthening the Warm Springs Dam flood pool to safely store water long-term could add up to an additional 136,000 acre-feet to Lake Sonoma. Together, they represent up to two years of water in reserve.

Raising Coyote Dam was contemplated by the Army Core of Engineers over 50 years ago and again in 2014. It is currently under review.

Warm Springs Dam flood control guidelines were set with 1970s weather forecasting in mind. You may remember that 12-hour forecasts were the norm. Today one-week weather forecasts are routine, and with impressive accuracy. Much of the flood pool could be safely used for water storage without compromising flood control.

Remember the winter rains in 2016-17? These rains would have filled both proposed additions. In fact, Warm Springs and Coyote dams filled into their flood pools in five of the past 11 years. In each case, the water was quickly released.

Email our supervisors. They can initiate detailed plans, cost-benefit analyses and bond issues.

John Dunning


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